After the Ark, Luke Johnson's remarkable first collection of poetry, chronicles the author's upbringing as the son of two ministers. A seasonal triptych, the poems root themselves in the landscapes they inhabit: from the boulder fields of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the endless dusk of Clam Gulch, Alaska, to a half-frozen lake in Upstate New York. These poems ask the reader to move inward, to look hard at loss and see it stark and sure. The narrative, often deceptively formal poems, show us the affects domestic tragedies can have on a family’s faith in each other, how absence can color their collective memory. Ultimately, they are poems of hope, artifacts or rescues of some kind. Each one is a small proof that no matter the magnitude of the flood, through remembering there can always be salvage. These poems ask the reader to believe there is something left worth saving.
I don't recall being so moved by a body of poems—surely not any time recently. I'm moved in all ways—not just the details, the family, the place, the memories, but how sturdy the language is, how it never thins out against the subject it is expressing, the emotion that moves it. Mary Oliver says the reader needs to know right away if the poet has the oars of the poem firmly in hand. Every single poem here is rowed with strength and purpose.
—Kathryn Stripling Byer
In his exceptionally fine début, After the Ark, Luke Johnson exhibits superb craftsmanship and a precociously profound, sympathetic understanding of human nature. In poems about his parents—ministers—he and we discover a convincing theology of love. The collection pulls us toward the magnificent final and title poem, wherein the book becomes a brilliant revelatory whole.
Luke Johnson is a poet with a keen and open eye—open to human failings, human feelings, and to the hard specifics of the natural world in which and through which we live and love, betray and atone, are abandoned and are found. His language is as clear as his eye, and his poems are for all those who care deeply and remain open to the often painful complexities of that caring.
—R. H. W. Dillard
In After the Ark, Luke Johnson carefully ensures the "tautness of the line" between witness, elegy, and survival—the poems documenting finally an arrival at the place "where the flood has become the body." This beautifully made collection is the welcome work of a poet crossing the threshold of a remarkable career.